Bears

Who's going to be the Bears' next offensive coordinator? Here are a few names

Who's going to be the Bears' next offensive coordinator? Here are a few names

The Bears are in the market for an offensive coordinator, which — like the third preseason game or the Pro Bowl — would be exciting if not for the small issue that actually, no, it’s not. Hiring an offensive coordinator is basically a round of Deadspin’s Let’s Remember Some Guys bit, except that Guy gets paid at the end. So let’s remember some guys and maybe one of them will be the Bears’ coordinator next season:

Pat Shurmur
Like new offensive line coach Juan Castillo, Shurmur and Matt Nagy go back to their days with the Eagles – Shurmur was Philadelphia’s QB coach while Nagy was a coaching intern in 2008. After a three-year run through Cleveland and St. Louis, Shurmur rejoined the Eagles as Chip Kelly’s offensive coordinator in 2013 after Andy Reid, and Nagy, left for Kansas City. Most recently, he was fired after two seasons as the head coach of the Giants, who started rookie QB Daniel Jones for 13 games in 2019. Things went poorly: New York finished the season 18th in points scored and 23rd in offensive DVOA, though Jones threw for 24 touchdowns (14th-best) despite missing three games.

Marty Mornhinweg
If you couldn’t tell, Nagy’s got a type. Mornhinweg ALSO was in Philadelphia, as an offensive coordinator & assistant head coach, during Nagy’s tenure there. He’s been coaching since 1985, and has experience with essentially every skill position on the field. He did go 5-27 over two seasons as the head coach of the Lions, but Mornhinweg’s also an Arena Bowl Champion, so congrats to Marty on that. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator behind a 2018 Baltimore offense that finished the season first in rushing attempts, second in rushing yards, and third in rushing touchdowns. Like I said, Nagy’s clearly got a type. 

Dave Ragone
Ragone is one of 150 people on the Bears’ payroll whose sole purpose is making sure Mitch Trubisky is having a nice day, so might as well promote him at this point. He’s been the Bears’ QB coach since 2016 and was even linked to an OC job in Tennessee last offseason, which surely earned his agent some sort of bonus. Here’s how the Bears’ passing game has finished in the years he’s since he joined: 

2016: 14th in Yards, 24th in TDs
2017: 32nd in Yards, 31st in TDs
2018: 21st in Yards, 14th in TDs
2019: 25th in Yards, 25th in TDs 

That obviously doesn’t tell the whole story, which is probably exactly what Ryan Pace is writing 1000 times on a chalkboard somewhere in Halas Hall. The Bears are fond of Ragone, and he’s not going to be a QB coach forever. If he’s truly seen as one of the core members of Nagy’s coaching staff, perhaps it’s time to show him that.

Mike Kafka?
Perhaps the ultimate Guy worth Remembering on this list. Here's what Nagy had to say about Kafka, who's from Chicago and was an offfensive quality control coach during Nagy's time in Kansas City. 

"Mike did a great job," Nagy said in reference to his time coaching Chiefs' QB Pat Mahomes. "At that point in time, when I was the quarterbacks coach/coordinator, you're really focusing during the season on Alex [Smith] and making sure that your starters are good to go and giving attention there. That's where having a guy like Mike Kafka that has played in the system in Philadelphia, that was drafted with Coach [Reid] in Philadelphia, you're able to take a guy that is growing as a coach and have him help out behind the scenes a guy like Patrick."

Another Philly guy! Let's just hire everyone who was on that 2010 staff and run it back. Wild Card exit here we come! 

NO ONE
OoOoOoOo. Spooky. This idea was first floated past me by NBC Sports producer Eric Strobel and I have not been able to think about anything since. Think about it: Nagy has his Bill O’Reilly moment and, as a deviously wry smile creeps over his face, decides that he doesn’t need any damn coordination. If you want something done well, do it yourself. How Belichickian! Nagy 303 doesn’t have an attendance policy, but you’ll be expected to complete the assigned reading on your own and have thoughts prepared for the seminar next week.

Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Stop me if you've heard this one before: The Bears need a tight end.

It's a narrative that started bubbling since the middle of the 2019 regular season when it became apparent that neither Trey Burton nor Adam Shaheen was the answer at the position for the Bears. Coach Matt Nagy was forced to turn to undrafted rookie Jesper Horsted and little-known veteran J.P. Holtz to find production for his offense. It was a big problem for Nagy, whose system calls for a playmaking tight end like Travis Kelce to hit its maximum potential.

To be fair, there's only a few at that level (Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz) in the league right now. But the Bears have to do their due diligence this offseason to try and find a 'lite' version of that guy. One player in free agency who has a resume of recent production as a pass-catcher to maybe be 'that guy' is Eric Ebron, who's coming off of a down year with the Colts.

Ebron appeared in just 11 games last season and finished with 31 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. It was a stark contrast from 2018 when he scored 13 touchdowns and was one of the NFL's best playmakers at the position.

RELATED: Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The problem with Ebron as a viable target for Chicago is that his tenure in the league produced more seasons like 2019 than 2018, but his pedigree as a former top-10 pick with high-end athletic traits warrants at least a look for a possible one-year prove-it deal.

At 26 years old, Ebron still has a lot of good football left in his legs. His market value should come in lower than Burton's $8 million per season; according to Spotrac, Ebron's expected contract this offseason will pay him around $7.5 million per year. Compared to the likely cost for players like Austin Hooper (Falcons) and Hunter Henry (Chargers), Ebron will be a bargain.

Ryan Pace will be bargain shopping in March, and Ebron may end up on the discount rack after the first wave of free agency concludes. Teams will be hesitant to offer him the kind of multi-year deal he's going to seek, which will give the Bears a chance to swoop in and lure him with the prove-it theory. He's young enough to earn a lucrative contract in 2021 if he posts big-time numbers in 2020, which Nagy's offense will give him the chance to do if he stays healthy.

Even the worst version of Ebron is better than the best of what Chicago has on its roster right now. He should rank highly on their offseason wish list, assuming his market remains where it logically should.

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Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The Bears have been connected to all of the big-name free agent quarterbacks this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace is expected to add competition for the starting job in free agency or the 2020 NFL draft after incumbent and former second overall pick, Mitch Trubisky, regressed mightily in his third season last year.

But rather than focus on players like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and even Marcus Mariota, it makes more sense to pay close attention to the next tier of free agent passers who could offer a potential upgrade from Trubisky while not necessarily creating shockwaves through Halas Hall upon signing.

One quarterback who fits that description perfectly is Case Keenum, the journeyman starter who's entering his 10th season in the league. 

Keenum is coming off of back-to-back forgettable seasons with the Broncos and Redskins, but it wasn't long ago when he was one of the better storylines in the NFL after leading the Vikings to 11 wins in 14 starts in 2017. He threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions that year and earned himself a respectable two-year, $36 million contract with Denver in 2018. His tenure as a Bronco lasted just one season (he finished 2018 with a 6-10 record) and his time as the Redskins starter was short-lived in 2019. He started just eight games for Washington.

For his career, Keenum's completed 62.4% of his passes and has thrown 75 touchdowns compared to 47 interceptions.

Keenum's resume isn't overly impressive, which is why he's a great fit for what Pace should try to accomplish over the next two months. He has to find a competent starter who can take advantage of everything else the Bears have going for them (namely, a championship-caliber defense) and who can be aggressive enough on offense to score enough points to win the close games. Keenum proved in 2017 that he can do that, especially when he has a good supporting case around him.

Keenum also qualifies as a solid bridge quarterback in the event Trubisky crashes and burns in 2020. At 32 years old, he's young enough to keep the starting job for a couple of seasons while Chicago attempts to find a younger long-term answer under center. 

Last but not least, he's going to be cheap. He didn't have a good year in 2019, and he was making just $3.5 million with the Redskins. There will be a limited market for his services this March, which means the Bears should be able to land him at a backup's salary despite his starter's upside. And that matters, especially for a team that's trying to free up salary cap space for other positions of need along the offensive line and secondary.

Keenum won't move the needle much for Bears fans in March, but landing a player of his caliber could ultimately be the difference between the Bears missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and making a deep playoff run.